Monday 27 March 2023

Burden of Ymir - Heorot (2023)

Country: Canada
Style: Black/Folk Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 10 Mar 2023
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Here's a great example of just how much good music is out there and how hard it is to keep track. I liked Burden of Ymir's debut album, Jötnar, in 2020, and I was happy to tackle this follow-up three years on. However, it turns out that debut actually came out in 2019 and Joe Caswell, the one man who plays everything here, knocked out another three albums in between these two, which I failed completely to notice. I need more eyes.

So this is his fifth album as Burden of Ymir, which is a blackened folk metal project, and I like it just as much as I expected to. It's built around synths, not just because Caswell plays them but because he has them pretend to be a lot of other instruments as well and we can tell. The sophistication of his equipment is not enough to make us believe that the accordion is an accordion and, if you care about that sort of thing, which I don't particularly, you'll notice it here. The synths don't mimic all the instruments though and I presume he plays the guitar and bass, very probably the drums too because they don't sound electronic to me.

There's an intro and an outro, as there was on Jötnar, so the folky vibe is established when we get to the first track proper, which is Recounting on the Seas. It kicks off with bass and, with prominent bass on The Great Mead Hall after it, I had to wonder if Caswell composes his songs from the bass. If so, it's working, because it's a good opener, shanty-esque with harsh black shrieks for vocals for the verses and clean folky cameraderie for the chorus. Behind all of it, though, is an epic feel that I don't remember from the debut. This is a seven minute song, longer than anything on Jötnar, and it works well, with excellent chord progressions playing up its stature.

It's chord progressions that elevate Revenge Found in the Night too, very probably my favourite of the six full tracks on offer. Here, they're bouncy chord progressions and they add some strut to the song. It's one to get people moving and not just in the usual circle of the pit. This is a song to stomp to like a troll. There's also a furious keyboard solo to raise it further, with a coda to bring it back to earth that echoes the bounce almost in a quack. It's a lively song but it has character too.

I love that bounce and it works well on speedier songs. There's more sway here, though, with both the opener and Monsters of the Lake dipping into shanties, but that's a sort of bounce too and it's played up in much of the material here.

The obvious track that doesn't do that is the album's true epic, The Ninth Hour Approaches, whose patient intro helps to nudge it past nine minutes. I like this one and it does what it does well, but it replaces the engaging bounce with a slower, majestic sweep. It takes its time building because it's aristocratic in outlook and knows full well that it's important enough for us to wait for it to get to us whenever it deems fit, and it almost becomes a sort of processional at points. While the album is folk metal with blackened edges, this reminds me of early doom/death.

I know it does its job well because it overwhelms the track that follows it, Threat of Fire. After I'd listened through a couple of times, the songs had started to distinguish themselves from each other and I was able to appreciate them on their own merits, except for this one because it exists in the shadow of the epic before it. I had to skip directly to it in order to get my head around it. It brings back a bounce and plays up a new choral side to the vocals. I think it's still just Caswell, but he's singing clean and I believe layering himself to sound like more than one person. It's a neat approach and his harsher voice emerges from it wonderfully.

And so this is a good fifth album, even if I initially thought it was a good second. Let's see if I can be aware enough to notice the sixth rather than the ninth.

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